Mount Meru

I wake up on Tuesday morning, 9th May, by the sound of rain. I am just thinking that Arusha National Park is about 60 km away, so hopefully, the rain is local and not there. We put our bags in the car, pick up the guide Jackson and chef Albert from Moshi town and start driving to Arusha National Park. On the way, the clouds get thicker and thicker. When at the park gate, everything is grayish and it is drizzling. The formalities at the gate take long as the guy at the counter wants more money than the published park fees. After showing him the rates on the internet, on their signboard outside of the counter and in the brochure, he decides to call his supervisor and concludes that we were right. A delay of one hour fortunately leads to better weather. We drive to the second gate from where our climb will start. There we have to wait again for the ranger. We have to sign a form about keeping the park clean etcetera etcetera. When it is 12:30pm, we finally start walking. We decide to take the Southern Circuit which is 10km and ascends from 1500 meter to 2500 meter. On the way, we meet black and white Colobus monkeys, giraffes, warthogs and birds. After about two hours we have lunch at the Arch Fig tree. Another hour later, we find waterfalls where we have a short rest. After another hour, we reach the floor of Mount Meru Crater where it is very foggy and it seems rain may come soon. We decide to put on our rain clothes, also against the cold wind. In the crater, we can clearly see the base of the ash cone, but the top is in the clouds. Let alone the top of Mount Meru itself. Maybe it is better that we can’t see it, not to get demoralized. Another half an hour later, we reach Miriakamba Hut at 2500 meter. I am surprised to find nice wooden sheds with rooms with beds with comfy mattresses, outside we find flushing toilets and running water and there is a nice and cozy dining room. We enjoy our dinner consisting of an avocado salad, fish filet and baked potatoes. After dinner, we go to our room. It is cold, but when we find out sleeping bags we quickly warm up.

The next morning I wake up before the wakeup call and walk to the toilet. On the way, my eye catches a great view of Mount Kilimanjaro floating on the clouds and sun behind it. I run back to the room to get my camera and take pictures. Breakfast calls. First porridge, especially made for the mountain. Then pancakes, eggs, sausages and bread. After breakfast, we start walking again. A small path winding up the crater wall leads us through the rainforest to a picnic place called ngongo wa tembo (elephants back). We are in the clouds, so we do not see anything. We enjoy some snacks and continue walking and after ten minutes, the sky clears to intense blue. In the East, Mount Kilimanjaro is clearly visible with its glaciers. We enter another zone of moorland. The bushes here are all burned black and we understand this is because of an uncontrolled bushfire last year caused by beekeepers. Around noon, we arrive at Saddle Hut at 3500 meter. I feel a little headache. We have our lunch consisting of spaghetti with tomato sauce. We rest a bit and around three we have to climb Little Meru for acclimatization. After one hour, we reach the peak at 3820 meter. From here, we have a great view on Mount Meru and the path to the peak (it seems like a long steep way), the top of the ash cone, Saddle Hut and on Mount Kilimanjaro. We stay here for a while as it is sunny and good for acclimatization. My headache is over. In half an hour, we walk back to the hut where we get our dinner of rice and tomato sauce. Then we quickly go to bed at 7:30pm as will have to wake up at midnight.

We are awake before midnight and start preparing for the final ascent. After a last toilet visit and tea with biscuits, we start walking slowly. Firstly, it is a winding path for about 15 minutes. Then we start zigzagging the first hill towards Rhino Point at 3800 meter. We have a short break there while we start feeling the cold wind. We don’t see much as the moon is only one quarter. After the break we continue down a bit and suddenly we have to climb down along a rocky wall with some small chains to prevent us from falling down. It shocks me a bit as I did not expect this. After this, we walk a bit more down and come to another rocky wall where we have to climb up again. Here there are no chains. I’m scared as I have no idea how deep the valley below us is. I am not sure if I want to continue as climbing along this wall scares me, I am tired and I feel nauseated. After some pep talk of my father, Ben and Jackson, I reset myself and continue. But only for a short while as after the rocky wall, we start ascending on a narrow path consisting of volcanic scree which makes me to slide down a bit after each step. It is tough, very tough. I feel my energy goes down, but I cannot eat because of nausea. I’m nearly giving up until my father wraps an arm around me and pushes me to continue. Also, Ben starts to motivate me that giving up will be the worst thing to do at this stage. We continue with several of such stops with pep talks and with a sanitary stop on the way. I have to say, going to the bathroom behind a rock with my butt in the wind and -7 degrees at an altitude of about 4000 meter is not the most comfortable thing, but it is certainly special. After another pep talk stop in which Ben tells me to continue to see what is behind that next rock up there, I lift myself up as I see in the sky in the East starts to lighten up. Jackson carries my bag which relieves me a bit. When passing that rock up there, I suddenly see the best view of Mount Kilimanjaro ever. It is just its silhouette completely black but with a yellowish to reddish, purple to black sky behind it…really, the best boost I needed at that time. I tell the others ‘Okay, let’s go for it’ and they start laughing. I can see the peak, but I am not sure how far it is. After passing another couple of rocky walls but at least with some path, we meet with the other half of the group that already went to the peak as they continued during my pep talk stops. They tell me that after the next corner, I will be able to see the flag on the peak. And it is true, but it still looks far. Starting our last ascent here, it seems like the flag does not get any closer with each step I take. But suddenly, I can see, only a few meters are left and the ranger tells me ‘only two more minutes’. More or less, I start running and following my father, I reach Socialist Peak at 4566 meter and Ben follows after me. Wao…I made it!!! We take many pictures and  sign the visitor’s book. This is such a fantastic feeling, but I am almost too tired to look happy. Maybe also because I know we will have to go back all the way. And after about half an hour, it is time to start our descent. Soon, my legs start hurting and shaking. Although Jackson the guide carries my bag, everything starts paining and we still have a long time to go. Now that we can see how far it is, it is quite demoralizing. My father goes quicker and walks ahead of us with one of the porters. There are great views on the way, but it is difficult to enjoy because of the strenuous walk. At the rocky walls, I see the valley was not that deep and not that steep. The volcanic scree is even more difficult to walk on when going down, being tired and not being able to control my muscles. But we have to continue. After about five hours, we reach Saddle Hut where we have about one hour to pack, to take our breakfast and lunch and to rest. Breakfast and lunch are both on the table consisting of fried eggs, sausages, pancakes, bread, sweet potatoes, chips and boiled eggs. But I get energy and around 1:30 we start walking down again. First, I feel I am very well able to do this last part, but soon my legs are so tired that every step is too much. I don’t enjoy anymore and with tears in my eyes I continue and finally we reach the gate around 6:30pm. I’m broken completely but still full with adrenaline. We receive our certificates from the park. We give the porters, guide and ranger their well-deserved tips and get in the car back to Moshi. Pictures can be found here!

Mount Meru was the toughest thing I ever did, but I certainly wouldn’t have liked to miss it. The views are great. The volcanic appearance of the mountain is wonderful. The best of all is the kick you get when reaching the peak. Moreover, the experience to climb with my father and my husband was great too. I will never do Meru again, but I am looking forward to do Mount Kilimanjaro and reach Uhuru Peak also!

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